Visit to Eastern Cape psychiatric hospital gives a 'very different picture' from reports – department

2018-03-07 19:21
The general ward at Tower Psychiatric Hospital (Supplied, Sizwe Kupelo)

The general ward at Tower Psychiatric Hospital (Supplied, Sizwe Kupelo)

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Port Elizabeth – The department of health in the Eastern Cape made an unannounced visit to Tower Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Beaufort on Monday following horrific reports of badly treated patients and maladministration.

The hospital's record drew comparisons to the Life Esidimeni tragedy when part-time psychiatrist Kiran Sukeri told Rapport that 90 patients had died since 2010, with four deaths reported in January alone.

There were also claims that patients were kept in solitary confinement for more than four hours, which is against psychiatric guidelines. A patient in solitary confinement allegedly panicked and set himself on fire.

Medical officer Dr Theresa Nodliwa was "forced" by hospital CEO Ntombizandile Ngcume to alter documents to make it appear that the patient had been examined twice, according to claims published in City Press.

Health MEC Pumza Patricia Dyantyi and spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo were accompanied by a journalist when they made a surprise visit to the hospital.

"What we saw was a very different picture from what was reported," Kupelo told News24.

No toilets in wards

"When we went to the hospital there was no solitary confinement. There is a block with a large ward which consists of smaller cubicles for violent patients.

"One of the two patients in one of those cubicles is there voluntarily because he is a white patient who prefers not to be in the company of black patients. He comes and goes as he pleases.

"The other patient cannot be around other patients because he has a tendency to throw his faeces on the walls."

Kupelo explained that there were no beds, only mattresses in the cubicles, as they could pose a threat to the safety of the patients.

It was also alleged that patients in solitary confinement only had the use of a bucket as a toilet if they became "restless".

"There are no toilets in the wards. All patients have to walk around the corner to the bathrooms. We are thinking of a possible renovation," Kupelo responded.

Independent investigation

Kupelo also slammed allegations that Nodliwa was coerced into amending the documents.

"This is not true. There was an auditing of documents at the time and she failed to fill in a certain page relating to the patient's cause of death," said Kupelo.

He denied as completely false the claim that 90 patients had died since 2010.

"The number of people who died from 2010 to date is 63 and not 90 as [Sukeri] claimed," explained Kupelo.

Despite their positive impression of the hospital following the visit, Kupelo said that an independent investigative panel would be appointed to assess the conditions at the institution.

Kupelo challenged Sukeri's credibility and alleged that Sukeri tended to flout hospital protocols.

Complaint submitted to Health Ombudsman

"Some patients were homeless and Sukeri wanted to discharge patients against hospital protocol," said Kupelo.

"In fact, his disregard for the rules has resulted in a family from Port Elizabeth wanting to sue the hospital. This shows that the doctor cannot cooperate with colleagues."

Sukeri refused to comment on the issue.

"I'm not going to comment or have any media engagement with Mr Kupelo," he said.

"I have submitted my complaint to the Health Ombudsman, the SA Human Rights Commission and the SA Society of Psychiatrists, which are well-respected institutions."

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  service delivery  |  healthcare

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